We’re going to have to face it: Valentine’s Day is fast approaching. I know some of you folks are really excited for this holiday ostensibly celebrating romantic love. Believe me, it’s difficult to refrain from making fun of you lovers, considering the holiday’s origins involve ritualistic animal sacrifice and nude youths running around the city wonking people in the face with thongs made of goat skin to encourage pregnancy. Honestly, it sounds more fun to me than the Hallmark Industrial Complex Enforced Love Initiative we’re stuck with now, but to each his own. Last year alone, what Charles Dickens called “Cupid’s Manufactory” churned out 17.9 billion dollars in sales of Pepto Bismol colored hearts, trite cards and chocolates. People still seem to like it, though.
I am, despite the whole “Dear Abby” coincidence, the worst person in the world to ask for dating advice. My romantic history consists of relationships with men who could easily be confused with the byproducts of a colo-rectal exam. Being dismal at dating, I tend to formulate complicated strategies to avoid it. They don’t work because I am evidently built upon a bedrock of indefatigable hormones, which have simultaneously caused me to cry like a baby over posters featuring uncomfortable kittens and leave finger marks in all my Kool Whip. It’s not always fun to be a lady.
The thing about love is that no matter how stupid, or misdirected, or one-sided or simply wrong it turned out to be, you still have to carry it. It gets inside you and never leaves. Decades later, we still think of past lovers maybe with fondness, or regret, or a wry smile, but they are still there – dirty un-evictable soul squatters with excellent lawyers. And maybe that’s okay. About a thousand years ago, I was on a faraway beach, watching hundreds of falling stars, with someone who could walk through the walls I surrounded my heart with as though they were made of air. We were glowing pale blue-green with the sea’s bio-luminescence, sitting out on the very edge of the surf. In that moment, I felt like I finally understood why the poets write and why the musicians sing. With each breath I was taking in the world.
When you feel something like I felt that night — when your soul emerges from the dusty bomb shelter in which you’ve hidden it — you don’t want to go back. It’s much more fun to be glowing and magical on a beach than it is to be fearfully hiding in a corner subsisting on rations of dried beans and stale mineral water. The difference is so stark that it causes terror. Having loved and lost, we’re well aware both that the stove is hot and that we’re definitely going to touch it again.
Despite all of this, though: the pain, the fear, the rejection, the rage…despite every scar striping us, we carry on. We keep walking because somehow, even in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, despite all the electrified, razor wire topped fences and savage dogs that stand in our way, the soul and center of us is calling, and every single one of us would walk through fire for even a hint of an answer. Love is at best a Sisyphean task involving very little romance and lots of picking up other people’s dirty socks, and everyone knows it…and no one cares. All the trivial day-to-day nonsense pales in comparison to finding a person who can see your light no matter how well you’ve hidden it under bushel baskets. And, if you’re lucky enough to have found the one who cares enough to cultivate that light, fanning the flame that is you until you glow like all the light in a thousand galaxies, then the risk and pain that came before were worth it. Finding the strength to trust another human being with your heart is the consummate exercise in sheer will, voluntary suspension of disbelief, and (if we’re being honest) hormone induced insanity. The struggle to find and keep love is perhaps the most audacious thing a human being can do, and maybe that’s why we needs a whole day (and a whole hell of a lot of sugar) to celebrate it.
If I look back, there has been a great deal of what I perceived at the time as loss of love in my live. Friends and lovers have come and gone, leaving me bullet riddled and heart sore. Missing people became a habit, and hanging on to the past is at best a cold comfort. You have to keep going, however, even if the way is dark and you walk alone. If you go far enough, you’ll find that relationships you’ve chalked up to being a total loss really weren’t. Maybe they were strange roadside attractions featuring live chicken decapitation and bins full of rattlesnakes, but they weren’t nothing. The world is large, and our lives are longer than we expect and shorter than we’d like. Every time you feel joy, you increase your capacity for joy. Every time we love, we’re able to feel more love. It’s a simple equation: the bigger it gets, the bigger it is. Love is absolute inflation – that’s why the most important thing we can do is seek out and save those people who embiggen us bigly (to translate to Trump) — the ones who make us soar despite the dull and depressing probability that we’re actually penguins.
No matter where you are in the world this Valentine’s/Single Awareness Day – in love, or out, happy, or hurt, remember it’s a journey. Take a minute today to feel all your love and light and to see all there is and all there can be. Being alone is difficult, but there is always more – for you, for me, for everyone. We walk, we learn, we grow, and we shine. As my sadistic Youtube kettlebell coach Body-by-Amy said this morning, “Whoopsy! Bad form on those last few. Next time, I’ll be stronger.” You can take that to the bank.